Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Jan 22

A Xenia Warehouse Engulfed in Flames

Posted on January 22, 2016 at 9:59 AM by Elise Kelly

"Every stream of water possible was turned on [to stop] the increasing and spreading blaze."
 On a frigid night in February of 1908, a police officer making his rounds, discovered that the Eavey building was engulfed in a torrid of blazing flames. He immediately called in the emergency and Xenia's Fire Department rapidly arrived on the scene. firefighters
"Firefighters Outside House Ruins," 1923, [not in Xenia], via Library of Congress

As the firemen anxiously turned on their hoses to douse the inferno, the flames had already spread to the third-floor of the building. According to a newspaper account, the firefighters seemed to be winning the fight of stopping the fire until there was an EXPLOSION!

Eavey co. on fire
The Eavey Co. or what is left of it. Notice the stream of water trying to smother the building with water.
As the scorching heat rose in the building, the tin roof completely ripped off. The flames danced  during the midnight hour as the firemen tried everything they could to extinguish the conflagration. With it being so cold out, some of the water turned to icicles.

Ultimately, two stories of the warehouse collapsed which subsequently effected the entire structure. Bricks from the edifice began to tumble down - tragically burying two men who were trying to fight the fire.
Let's examine a witness' testimony who saw what happened to one of the men that died. (See Below)

                                 Coroner Inquest Records 1879-1911 (Part I)

testimony 2
                                 Coroner Inquest Records 1879-1911 (Part II)
"On that night of the fire at the Eavey & Co Wholesale house I was around at the fire while at the rear I noticed Martin Ullery near the west wall. After the west wall fell Mr. Ullery could not be accounted for and after inquiring among the bystanders we concluded he must be in the ruins I thereupon walked over to the spot where I saw him last and found what afterward proved to be his rubber coat of which about a square foot was exposed this being covered by broken brick and brick dust. After making further search I found the body of a man which fact I communicated to a number of spectators standing near and asked them to come and help move the brick which covered up the body. We then removed all the brick and debris and lifted the body onto an improvised [Next Page]

Eavey Building Fire Page 3nn.jpg
                        Coroner Inquest Records 1879-1911 (Part III)

"stretcher and directed the men to carry the body to the coroner's office. [In] the mean time I notified the coroner by telephone and in a very short time he took charge of the body. The body was so disfigured that for quite a while we was unable to recognize it. The head was mashed until parts of the skull bone and brain were heed by only shreds of tissue[.] The thorax was torn open, exposing the organs and heart was forced out on the body. The ^ bones of the left leg ^ from hip to foot was broken in 6 places. His hands were cut and bruised. In my judgment he was killed instantly."

Martin Ullery was relieving one of the firefighters for only a brief moment when the west wall collapsed on him, killing him instantly. Joseph Fletcher's legs were pinned by the onslaught of bricks and his neck was broken. Sadly, Fletcher died at the scene also.

The Cause of the Fire? Possibly Arson

In the back of the building was a room where sugar was kept. Investigators believed that this is where the fire began. Some believed that the fire was started intentionally.

When the workers left for the evening they closed all of the shutters. At nine o'clock in the evening, a neighbor of the building was outside and noticed a shutter open and a stream of light flicker. Undeterred, the neighbor assumed it was a light from the stove and re-entered his house.

Just a shell of the building remained after the fire had finally been extinguished. The losses amounted to $100,000 - the largest fire losses Greene County had ever suffered up to the later part of the twentieth century.

The Eavey & Co. building was located on W. Main Street in Xenia where more recently the Cherry Furniture store once stood (See Below).

eavey 33
                                      Eavey & Co., circa late 19th Century

                                    Cherry's Home Furnishings, 1962

The Company moved a couple of streets down from its original location. Let's take a look at an Eavey & Co. receipt that showcases the new building and its location in April of 1909. (See Below).


Although this wholesale grocery company no longer operates in Xenia, the latter warehouse still exists!

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: Eavey & Co. moved to another location in the city of Xenia. What street was it located at? (Hint: This building still stands today).

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
 Who was nicknamed the "Savior of Cincinnati?" - Answer: Union General Lew Wallace.

Resources: Baxter, Joan. "Firefighters Killed During Blaze." Xenia Daily Gazette 6 February 2008.


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